6
$\begingroup$

In my book series, while most of the Aurean Empire has essentially a combination of the plant life of the American West and the Mediterranean, the northern provinces are a bit different because all of the Planet Aurea's landmass is in the southern hemisphere. These northern provinces are based on parts of the neotropics, and as such, their climate and plant life is mostly tropical. Specifically, the province of Sparteia is similar to Florida and Cuba, Monsaltu is similar to the Mexican Riviera, far northern Tangolia is a lot like Yucatan, and the rest is a massive tropical expanse very similar to the Cerrado and Amazon regions of Brazil. My question is which trees in neotropical environments like this provide the best wood for shipbuilding?

NOTE: the tech level of the Aurean civilization is early Renaissance, but their shipbuilding techniques are overall most similar to those of the Carthaginians, Romans, Greeks, Byzantines, and Ottomans.

$\endgroup$
6
  • $\begingroup$ Do your people have Steel for toolmaking? Early Renaissance would hint that they do, but Metallurgy has an impact on what woods they can work. If steel is too expensive, they may not use it for common tools, which will influence which woods they can work on a scale for ships. If Bronze tools are the only thing a regular shipwright can afford, building boats out of exotic hardwoods is not going to happen. $\endgroup$ – Paul TIKI Apr 9 at 17:49
  • $\begingroup$ @PaulTIKI they are a highly organized society with access to steel tools $\endgroup$ – The Weasel Sagas Apr 9 at 17:52
  • $\begingroup$ excellent. That keeps your options open. If Bronze was the prime tool making metal, a lot of wood types become nearly impossible because of the rate at which you damage the tool in comparison to how much progress you can make before stopping to sharpen or replace. It's still an issue today even with very high quality steels and some particularly tough woods. A few years ago I destroyed a chainsaw and 3 chainsaw chains cutting a small Osage Orange tree in my yard down. $\endgroup$ – Paul TIKI Apr 9 at 17:59
  • $\begingroup$ What sort of seas are they facing? Is this the sheltered Mediterranean, or stormy Atlantic? $\endgroup$ – user1937198 Apr 10 at 15:15
  • $\begingroup$ @user1937198 one coast faces the Sea of Gregoras which is a warm, sheltered sea like the Mediterranean, and the other faces the Great Northern Ocean, which is a warm but huge and stormy ocean like the tropical Atlantic. $\endgroup$ – The Weasel Sagas Apr 10 at 16:01
10
$\begingroup$

In the American south, especially the hot, swampy parts, there is a lovely tree commonly called Bald Cypress. It would be an excellent wood for shipbuilders.

Taxodium Distichum (wiki link here) grows all over North America. It grows with a nice straight trunk. It has a nice fine leaf. It also grows with distinctive 'knees'

It was been used as boat planking in history.

Why this wood in particular? Well, It grows well in a number of biomes. It can be cultivated in places where it would not grow naturally. It grows reasonably quickly. It's not as soft as pine, but neither is it as hard as oak, so you will get reasonable yield from your tools. Some woods, like Osage Orange will blunt tools, chainsaws, felling axes like crazy. Bald Cypress is rot resistant. It grows pretty straight, meaning you can get nice even planking in quite long lengths, up to 8 meters in some cases.

There are many other trees that may be wonderful for the finished product but can be impractical. Oaks are wonderful, but take a very long time to grow back into a harvestable forest. Osage Orange, as I said, is the very devil to work and is very hard on tools. Teak is even worse on that front, plus the tree isn't as common. I have heard that there are some trees from Australia that sneer at mortal men and their iron. Take this into account for your shipyards.

$\endgroup$
3
$\begingroup$

Whatever they have.

There was no one wood used for shipbuilding they used different woods for different parts of the ship. Usually whatever they had locally this is even true for the romans. The only really considerations were a preference for hard woods for framing, cheap wood for planking, and rot resistant woods whenever possible.

Only the largest ships or specialty craft needed specific woods.

So really all you need to do is took at the timber available in your regions and pick the most common hardwoods and the most common softwoods. That is what your ships will be made from.

$\endgroup$
3
$\begingroup$

What tree features are looked for ship building? There is some variance depending on intended use: structural timbers, planking, spars etc.

  • Uniform ( fewer knots, straighter)
  • Tall ( fewer joins)
  • Dense/ tough (resist physical damage)
  • Resistant to being eaten(insects/worms)
  • Minimal warping after drying/seasoning

Which trees are matches most of those? The canopy trees growing in dense forests of tall trees with lots of rain and sun. Canopy tree being a tree forms the upper canopy, that grows such that its branches and leaves above its neighbors. Trees that have no branches below the crown on the mature tree. This is opposed to trees that specialize to the low or mid canopies.

$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

Apparently, teak wood resists warping, cracking, and decay, and is moisture resistant. (It's found in the neotropics, I think)

$\endgroup$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.